The newest episode of NBC's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" has recently been surrounded in controversy due to a special guest star. In the episode that airs tonight, retired boxer Mike Tyson, who served three years in prison for raping a woman in 1992, plays a convict who molested as a child.
His casting has prompted an online petition asking NBC to replace Tyson or pull the episode. The petition was started by Marcie Kaveney, a rape crisis counselor and is also a rape survivor. This morning Kaveney joins “Starting Point” to explain.
When Kaveney learned that Tyson was cast for the role, she says, “Nobody was touching on what it might mean to the survivors to see a convicted rapist on a show...about victims and survivors of rape.”
“Ultimately rape is rape and it’s no less heinous because it happens 20 years ago than it is today,” she says. "The show bases itself around victims stories and survivors stories and that is the problem right there – is that you have survivors having to turn on that show and see Mike Tyson on a that they consider to be theirs that tells their stories that they identify with.”
Kaveney says, “Ultimately...it all comes down to survivors and that you have thousands and millions survivors watching your show and that you have a responsibility to them.” She adds, “The fact that he’s on the show at all is a problem. The fact that he’s playing a victim is an even bigger problem because at what point do you say ‘Ok, are we going to let all the rapists and the murderers out of jail because they had a terrible childhood?’ You have to take responsibility for you actions.”
We've been hearing a lot about Rep. Todd Akin's controversial rape comments, but one side we haven't heard much from is the victims.
According to the American College of Obsetrics and Gynecology, 5% of women become pregnant due to rape. One of those women, Shauna Prewitt, has come forward, writing a powerful letter that has gone viral. In the letter, now posted in the CNN.com/Opinion section, she says "Rep. Todd Akin's recent comments that 'legitimate rape' rarely results in pregnancy not only flout scientific fact but, for me, cut deeper. Akin has de-legitimized my rape."
Prewitt, who is now an attorney, was 21 when she was raped and became pregnant. Her daughter is now 7 years old. She shares her story with Soledad O'Brien on "Starting Point," and explains that not only did she decide to keep her daughter, but had to face a custody battle with her attacker.
"He filed for sole custody of her," Prewitt says. "I am very lucky that his parental rights were terminated so he is no longer or was never a part of our lives. But I fight today in my advocacy work for the past two years focused on helping other women who haven't been so lucky or aren't so lucky."
She adds, "words have power....the way in which we speak about women who become pregnant through rape...I think has made us suspicious of anyone like me or the 30% of other women who each year choose to keep and raise the children that they conceived through rape. We are suspicious of them because they behave in a way that our dialog suggests they shouldn't. I think we're hesitant to pass the laws because frankly we don't think that women like me exist."
See more from Prewitt's interview with Soledad in the clip above. Read Prewitt's letter "Raped, pregnant and ordeal not over."
We want to know what you think: Should states allow men who father through rape to have same custody and visitation rights to their children as other fathers? And does your opinion change if it's in a case of statutory rape?